Citizen Police Academy benefits community

Staff photo by Dean H. Borgwardt

CITIZEN Police Academy graduates William Guier and John Silvas present their gift of two new M-26 Taser weapons to Mayor Jauregui.

Cottonwood Chief of Police C. Pat Spence and Cottonwood Mayor Ruben Jauregui addressed the class, congratulating them on their completion.

Some 25 citizens from the Verde Valley signed up for the 11-week course, which culminated in the presentation of two new M-26 Advanced Taser weapons to the department from participants William Guier and John Silvas.

Students were presented a certificate of completion and garnered a new appreciation for police work and the risk officers take while protecting the public.

Sgt. Jack Stapleton, a 20-year veteran officer, served as the academy's administrator.

He said the academy is very popular with the public and his fellow officers appreciate the interaction as well.

"We build working relationships between officers and the public — it's a good opportunity to interact," Stapleton said. "We get to share what it's like to be a police officer and get feedback from the community."

During the 10-week course, students participated in an officer ride along, mock building searches, crime scene investigation training, defensive tactics, weapons training, a canine officer demonstration, an introduction to the judicial system and other areas of police work.

Spense said that the projected started about four years ago and his officers put a lot of effort into the program.

"It's been well received by the public and it's an ideal opportunity for the public to become aware of how we operate as a department," Spense said. "Our officers enjoy working with this program too, because it gives them a chance to work with the public in a different setting instead of one involving a crisis."

Spence added that in addition to having fun, a few students usually volunteer their time at the police department to help in administrative duties.

Stapleton said that he hopes students leave with a positive experience and a closer bond with their police department.

"The younger officers benefit from the opportunity to see who they serve," Stapleton said. "It seems to be a very successful program."

Not only did students form a closer bond with police, but also with their classmates.

Krys Vogler of Cottonwood was one of the students.

"I was so impressed at what they have to do — laying their lives on the line for us like they do," she said. "It's made us aware of our surroundings. My appreciation and understanding of police work has tripled and the things we learned could even save a life."

The class was enthusiastic about the program and were so appreciative, at the end of the ceremonies, that a spontaneous hat passing raised another $520 for a third Taser gun.

Currently, the police department has 13 M26 Taser guns and 17 would mean full force deployment to each officer on patrol. The M26 is a less-than-lethal device, deploying electricity to debilitate an assailant. Officers report that the Taser guns have saved lives of both police officers and suspects as well.

Loretta Hido-Dunham, of Cottonwood, said that her favorite part of the course was the patrol ride-along.

"During the ride-along, you are one-on-one with an officer," she said. "They explained every aspect of their patrol car and procedures. It was fascinating."

The police department holds two courses each year.

The next Civilian Police Academy will be March 24, 2004. Applications are available at the Cottonwood Police Department, 199 S 6th Street, Cottonwood. Applicants selected to participate will be involved in a 10 week, one night a week program of training covering a wide range of law enforcement topics.

For more information, contact the Cottonwood Police Department at (928) 634-4246.

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